'Ship of Gold' Treasure to be Displayed at World's Fair of Money in Chicago

Posted on 8/10/2021

The ship’s bell, which CCG has been safely storing, will be rung twice daily in memory of the ill-fated last voyage of the SS Central America.

A 268-pound bell from the SS Central America, the fabled “Ship of Gold” that sank in 1857, will be publicly displayed along with some of the recovered California Gold Rush treasure at the American Numismatic Association’s 2021 Chicago World’s Fair of Money®, August 10-14, 2021. Preceding its trip to the ANA show, the bell has been safely stored by the Certified Collectibles Group® (CCG®).

The 268-pound bell from the SS Central America.

The bell, which was brought up from the Atlantic Ocean in 1988 and helped to confirm the identity of the historic vessel, will be rung twice each day during the ANA convention in remembrance of the 425 passengers and crewmembers who perished when the legendary ship sank 164 years ago. Measuring nearly two feet tall and a little over two feet in diameter at the lower flange edge, the bell has not been exhibited in public for three decades.

The SS Central America, known as the Ship of Gold, was a 280-foot sidewheel steamer that operated between Central America and the eastern coast of the United States during the 1850s, before the transcontinental railroad was complete. During a hurricane on September 12, 1857, the ship sank 7,200 feet under the surface of the Atlantic Ocean about 150 miles off the North Carolina coast. The ship was on a voyage from Panama to New York carrying tons of California Gold Rush coins, ingots and gold dust from the San Francisco and Northern California area. The tragedy took the lives of 425 of the ship’s 578 passengers and crewmembers.

The SS Central America sank off the coast of North Carolina on September 12, 1857.

The loss of the ship’s gold cargo was a major factor in an economically devastating financial panic that year. At the time of its sinking, the Central America carried gold then valued at about $8 million (equivalent to about $600 million today). The loss shook public confidence in the economy and contributed to the Panic of 1857. The impact of the downturn was felt worldwide, and the Panic of 1857 is considered the first global economic crisis.

In addition to safely storing the ship's bell, many of the artifacts recovered from the historic shipwreck are being expertly conserved, authenticated and certified by the CCG affiliates, including Numismatic Guaranty Corporation® (NGC®), Numismatic Conservation Services™ (NCS®) and Collectibles Authentication Guaranty® (CAG®). More information about these exciting artifacts will be released in the near future.

The ringing of the bell ceremony will be conducted at booth 122 daily 30 minutes after the show opens to the public and again at 3 p.m. The American Numismatic Association 2021 Chicago World’s Fair of Money will be in Hall A of the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Illinois.

NGC and Paper Money Guaranty® (PMG®) will be in booth 1822 at the show.

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